As he waters the freshly planted seeds, Arthur gives Activity Specialist Cathy Brunelle a giant “high-five” in celebration. Arthur is one of the day hab participants at Omni Way planting a garden for Earth Day, an annual tradition that individuals and staff alike look forward to!
“Since Incompass Human Services programs are all about nurturing growth, it’s only fitting that we turn Earth Day into a special day for our program participants,” says Shawn Nault, director of day programs.
After a year of pandemic restrictions, many of which are still in place, this year’s Earth Day activity was highly anticipated according to Brunelle. “We are planting a variety of vegetables, flowers, and herbs in the raised, wheelchair-accessible gardening beds and containers here at Omni Way, and everyone is really excited to see what will grow!”
Leading up to today, she said that “each of our day hab rooms provided me with a list of seeds that they chose to grow, both in their program rooms and in our patio garden.” They also spent time earlier this week preparing the garden beds and the soil.
Vegetables were a popular choice this year, as participants are planting potatoes, broccoli, spinach, lettuce, peppers, green beans, cucumbers, zucchini, butternut squash, beets, and even a few tomato plants. Bianco’s Catering, who is also a tenant at 4 Omni Way, has even asked our program participants to help grow some fresh herbs for their customers as well!
Gardening is a passion for Brunelle, and one that is she enthusiastically shares with the Incompass community through her role as an activity specialist. At the height of the COVID pandemic when facility-based programs were suspended, Brunelle provided seeds to Incompass group home residents and hosted virtual gardening sessions through Zoom.
“Gardening in and of itself is a very therapeutic activity and it ties to a number of clinical and day hab goals in areas of social communication, fine motor, gross motor, and independent living skills, to name a few,” says Brunelle. “We also have a plot in the Chelmsford Community Garden at Sunny Meadow Farm that we maintain and incorporate into our community-based therapeutic gardening activity.”
In the program rooms, participants have been reading about the history of Earth Day and the movement to protect our planet. And each room will also be working on a grow chart in anticipation of their seeds sprouting, something they are all looking forward to!
As for what will become of the fresh vegetables that will be sprouting from those garden beds, nothing will go to waste. Some of the fresh vegetables will be brought home by participants, and many will be used on-site for the cooking classes in the Omni Way kitchen.
“It’s fair to say that Earth Day is a big deal at Incompass Human Services!” says Nault, who also encourages everyone in the Incompass community to take a moment today to do something to help protect the planet. “We’ve only got one planet after all!”
There is a certain unspoken bond between siblings – a fierce loyalty and love that knows no bounds. When their mother passed, it was only natural that Jack would assume care of his older brother, Jimmy.
Jimmy faced two immediate hurdles when he was diagnosed with autism at a young age. The stigma of living with an intellectual or developmental disability, as well as severely lacking supports and programs. As his guardian, Jack works with Jimmy to make sure he is living the fullest life possible both at home and in the community.
It is no secret that the pandemic has been incredibly disruptive for day-to-day life, but even more so for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, who depend on consistency and routine. Jack noted that the level of care Jimmy has received over the years is incomparable, especially since the onset of the pandemic and initial suspension of our in-person supports.
He mentioned that Jayne Rachier, program manager at Incompass, has gone above and beyond. “Jimmy hasn’t returned to day programs since last March because we’re worried about his health, but Jayne calls every week to check on him.”
After nearly 30 years attending our day programs, it goes without saying that Jimmy has left his mark on staff and peers alike. Prior to the pandemic, you would find him co-leading the morning exercise routine and reviewing the Morning Meeting Board to get familiar with the day’s schedule. There is one activity, however, that Jimmy finds the most solace in. Music.
Music isn’t only a source of comfort but also serves as a tool to build his communication skills. Jimmy has been nonverbal for the majority of his life but gets creative in the ways he expresses himself. If there was ever a special occasion, such as a multicultural celebration or Urban Youth activity, Jimmy would open with the National Anthem. Baseball bingo activities were commemorated with his rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”.
Health and safety concerns may have halted these experiences, but it certainly hasn’t slowed Jimmy down one bit. He faithfully wakes up his brother each morning to lead his exercise routine at home. We all plan on taking a page out of his book – teamwork makes the dreamwork. Looking forward to having you in the Incompass halls again soon, Jimmy!
For the first time in nearly 150 days, our day programs will be open next week when we welcome a small cohort of day hab participants to Lawrence and Chelmsford!
The last five months have been an incredible period for all of us at LifeLinks CLASS.
We’ve listened to our Care Champions.
We’ve connected with our families and caregivers.
We’ve consulted with fellow provider agencies.
We’ve followed guidance from federal and state agencies.
We’ve completed training to build our skills in infection prevention and containment
All of this insight, collaboration, and action has driven our agency’s pandemic response plan that has been rooted in proactive steps aimed at promoting the health and safety of our community. Remember, we suspended day programs, required face coverings, and offered hand-washing training prior to the release of state requirements.
So, at the risk of sounding self-serving, I don’t mind saying that I think we’re doing a heck of a job! ???
But hey, don’t just take my word for it! Our most recent round of surveillance testing conducted at nearly every group home just this week recorded zero positive tests! In fact, we haven’t recorded a single positive COVID-19 test in six weeks! ? ?
And remember – WE NEVER CLOSED! Our 16 group homes are staffed 24/7 and are home to nearly 100 individuals. Our nurses and clinical teams are providing essential medical care to individuals where they are. Our Family Support Center is actively serving more than 300 families throughout the region. Our family support and day program specialists have run more than 1,000 virtual programs since day programs were suspended.
The bottom line is that our organization is rooted in doing things for each other; this isn’t novel for us. It’s what makes us all Care Champions! While it’s easy to focus on tangible policies and procedures, I am especially proud of what we’ve accomplished in the past few months…
We’ve learned from each other.
We’ve supported each other.
We’ve stayed home and avoided crowds for each other.
We’ve donned masks for each other.
We’ve been there for each other.
This includes all of you – staff, families, caregivers, individuals, public officials, Directors, and supporters. So on Monday, remember we aren’t just resuming day hab; we’re taking another step forward as a LifeLinks CLASS team…and we’re doing it #ForEachOther.